BLOCH PLAZA, Houston, TX
The "Bloch Plaza" at Hermann Park, near the M. D. Anderson Medical Center in downtown Houston, is the site for one of the four Bloch Cancer Survivor Commemorative Plazas upon which Thomas Studio was privileged to work. Other Bloch Plazas, in which Thomas Studio participated in, are located in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio; Houston and Dallas, Texas; and New Orleans, Louisiana.
The first of the plazas Thomas Studio participated in was in Houston, adjacent to the M. D. Anderson Medical Center. Wrought iron magnolia leaves form overlapping flowers for the roof of a gazebo with carved pillars from limestone quarried near Monterrey, Mexico. The stone pillars are rough at their bases and become more refined as they rise until they are smooth and graceful with inlaid colorful ceramic medallions at the tops. Thomas Studio helped design and did all the fabrication of the wrought ironwork, including the gazebo, 13 patio fence components and a bronze and limestone cancer survivor information computer kiosk. Nick Brumbder Ornamental Iron of Georgetown (Texas) hot-forged the 3,800 individual leaves that make up the gazebo dome.
Thomas Studio, with Austin Architect Milosav Cekic, was commissioned by Richard Bloch of H & R Block Tax Company in the mid-1990s to participate in the design and production of five of 30 Cancer Survivor Plazas. The Plazas are located near major medical centers and medical research universities throughout the United States. A sixth plaza was scheduled for Austin, Texas but was canceled when objections were voiced to its location at Congress Avenue and Town Lake. The plazas are intended to simply provide a nearby refuge from the stress of combating the disease. The plaza benefactors include the patients, their families and perhaps most needful, the caregivers who never receive closure.
BLOCH PLAZA, Cleveland, OH
The "Bloch Plaza" at University Circle, across from Mt. Sinai Medical Center, overlooks a beautiful parkway leading through a series of lakes and streams to the shores of Lake Erie. The Cleveland Bloch Plaza is Thomas Studio's largest and most complicated figurative sculpture and architectural art project to date.
Its central feature is a five-story, sculpted brick "Tree of Life", surrounded by a fabricated aluminum grape arbor. Thomas Studio designed the carvings of Ohio's indigenous plant and wildlife, made full-scale drawings and transferred the drawings to full-scale wet clay bricks. Working 10-hour days, seven days a week for five straight weeks, the designs were carved in the clay bricks, which were then fired and sent to Cleveland for installation. Two crews of brick masons worked six weeks to lay up the 41,000 pounds of sculpted brick which had to have the fresh mortar resculpted by Thomas Studio as it was applied. The sculpture was featured on a PBS feature in the fall of 1997. Other Bloch Plazas, in which Thomas Studio participated, are located in Columbus, Ohio; Houston, Texas; and New Orleans, Louisiana.
The Cleveland Cancer Survivor's Plaza, is sited next to Mt. Sinai Medical Complex in downtown Cleveland and features a five-story high carved brick gazebo of "The Tree of Life" from the Bible. It also includes an aluminum semicircle of grape arbors. The 50-foot high carved brick gazebo features the wildlife and plants indigenous to the Northern Ohio region including deer, raccoons, robins and owls. Grapevines intertwine with huge oak trunks to form the four legs of the monument, culminating in an enormous cantilevered grape cluster at the crown, fifty feet up. Stylized aluminum bird wings top the sculpture, representing freedom from stress.